To have ideas and opinions and make judgments is perfectly normal and necessary when decisions have to be made every day. In fact our Western society with its education and its day-to-day life is expecting us to think all the time and to have ideas, opinions and judgments on everything. This is even more relevant now when knowledge is only one click away on our computer. In fact if you state that you do not have opinion on something people may question your sanity and/or your social behavior.
But when no decision is required having opinion and judgment can be detrimental because they trap us in a state of rigid mindset from which it is almost impossible to escape.
Great Zen Master SENG-T’SAN teaches that the state of enlightenment or awakening is found through the absence of opinions and judgments when there is no decision required. This initial step toward enlightenment is extremely difficult to conceive and to achieve since our ego loves to have zillions of ideas, opinions and judgments on everything including on subjects we have neither expertise nor experience.
Awakening is found through the quasi absence of all opinions & judgments when they are not needed. This consciousness is limitless, like a clear blue sky and our ideas, opinions and judgments are little clouds passing through. By focusing too much on the clouds, we miss the beauty of the universe.
Zen teaching wants us to let go our addiction with spontaneous and non-decisional judgments and embrace an attitude of “don’t know”.
Like many Zen words a “DON’T KNOW” mind should not be taken literary. It does not mean a stupid mind but rather a “MAY BE” or “AS IT IS” or “OPEN” mind. Through the process of not knowing and not judging we slowly start to discover our True Self or original self common to all living beings. We are releasing ourselves from our closed mind set which keeps us in prison.
Think about the following:
- How often are you stuck with an idea, opinion or judgment that came from nowhere?
- How often are your opinions/judgments obscuring your intuition and insight?
- Consider your most cherished opinions. Do you really know them to be absolute truth?
- How often do you judge someone or something for no reason or purpose?
- How often do you hesitate to say, “I don’t know” for fear of looking stupid or rude?
- Is the fact that you know very little a sign of weakness?
- Do you feel good when you expose your opinion?
- Does your happiness and serenity increase with your amount of knowledge and opinions?
Subconsciously we are filling the emptiness of “I don’t know” by rushing to books, magazines and Web sites. This attitude is probably a proxy of an ego trip. We feel better because we know more…but do we?
Knowledge like desires are limitless and will never satisfy our ego definitely.
In Zen, wisdom is not found by having more ideas opinions and judgments about life, about people, events or even about Zen. Wisdom is reached by discovering inner self and life directly through intuition and experience.
“NOT KNOWING MIND” that is again: “open mind”, “may be mind” and “as it is mind” is an integral part of such experience.
This attitude of “NOT KNOWING” should not be seen as a sign of weakness or stupidity but instead a sign of growing wisdom and the proof that awakening is around the corner.
The opposite attitude that is the ongoing, frenetic, obsessive and fanatical hunting of outside knowledge through million of printed or electronic sources is probably evidence of an ego not yet under control.
Searching for inside knowledge of Self rather than the knowledge outside self is a sign of serenity.
Ven. Ji Gong Sunim. July 2015